Friday, 2 February 2018

The snowdrops are well up and the daffs hard on their heels; hazel catkins are shaking their tails, the vine buds are showing white silky points. That’s mid-February stuff, usually, here. Shaping up to be another early spring.  It’s been a warm wet winter here, close to the north coast of Somerset, with so far only two proper air frosts.

We’re still playing catch-up with the pruning. Finally over the flu after-effects and the annual January accounts-wrestle is done, but ever-present rain is slowing us up. It’s not good for vines to be pruned in the wet when fungus spores are active, so it’s been a bit of a sporadic, in-out-in sort of business the last couple of weeks. Thankfully, although frequent the rain hasn’t been enough to flood our yards  and the low barns so far. It’s squelchy only at the very bottom of the vineyard and poached-up-muddy only outside the hay barn where the tractor and trailers live. We’re trying to avoid driving on the vineyard but the grass there is firm enough for pruning without compacting the soil unduly.

Gotta new toy! A log splitter for the tractor. The wood from the poplars we had felled in the vineyard windbreak last March has been lying in the field where the tree guys piled it, drying. In the dark days of January and December it’s been a daily task to collect up the lengths of thinner branches and saw them for our nightly log fire, this time of year lit in the afternoons as the light fades. But anno domini has been making the job of axing up the shorter, wider lengths of trunk daunting, so it was time for Iain to hang up his axe. The new one is an Oxdale splitter from Sid Cowling Agri, not far away down on the levels, Langport way. Sid specialises in small tractors; it’s where our much-loved secondhand Kubota SV40 came from. Went down there on Wednesday. They keep these in stock. 

Mounted on the Kubota’s three point linkage and working off its hydraulics, this little hydraulic ram with a chunky axe head on the end is brilliant! Feels very solid and not scary at all. We can use it with the tractor reversed so it’s back end is under the Dutch barn and we and the logs are out of the wind and rain, so it can be a wet weather job.

Already got quite an impressive pile to be stacked after an hour’s rather cautious first trial and the split wood is making a cheery blaze of a dark evening.